Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Real ID Implementation Deadline for States: December 31 2009

Taking a second (third, fourth, one-hundre-and-ninety-eleventh) seat to the health care reform debate is this nasty little bit of Orwellian Bush legacy...

The official deadline for states to comply with the Department of Homeland Security's (DHS) final Real ID rule is December 31, 2009, and an estimated 36 states will not be in compliance by then, leading to some ambiguity for many citizens. For example, will residents of Montana be able to board planes in January 2010 with only a driver’s license (a state-supplied, technically non-compliant document) and without a passport (an identity document issued by the federal government)?

Past history strongly suggests that DHS will issue last-minute waivers to states that have not amped up their drivers licenses to adhere to Real ID. Early in 2008, states that actively opposed Real ID received waivers from DHS, nominally marking the states as "compliant" despite strongly-stated opposition to ever implementing Real ID.

But waiting in the wings is PASS ID, a bill that attempts to grease the wheels by offering money to the states to implement ID changes. Despite having the appearances of reform, PASS ID essentially echoes Real ID in threatening citizens' personal privacy without actually justifying its impact on improving security. For this reason, PASS ID is not popular -- privacy advocates refuse to support the bill because it still creates a national ID system. It still mandates the scanning and storage of applicants' critical identity documents (birth certificates, visas, etc.), which will be stored in databases that will become leaky honeypots of sensitive personal data -- prime targets for malicious identity thieves or otherwise accessible by individuals authorized to obtain documents from the database. And on the other side, short-sighted surveillance hawks are unhappy with the bill because they support the privacy violations architected into the provisions of the original Real ID Act.
If only the valiante tea-baggers weren't so busy fighting mock-tyranny and "die-ing in" all over the place, they could save us!  As it stands, we're going to have to hope organizations like EFF, the ACLU, and others taking the lead of the 24 states already wise enough to place a ban on implementation of this misguided "plan."

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